John W. Mills
Paul Smith’s College President John W. Mills announced Monday that he will retire on June 30, after serving in the office for more than a decade.
“This is the best job I ever had,” said Mills, 66, who has been president since 2004. “I’m making this decision, though, at a time when higher education is facing great change. This is an opportune moment for a new leader to help Paul Smith’s execute that transition.”
E. Phillip Saunders, chairman of the college’s board of trustees, applauded Mills upon his retirement.
“I want to thank John for his 13 years of service to Paul Smith’s College, and what will be 10 and a half years as president,” Saunders said. “He has done an outstanding job of leading the college, and serving as a community leader. His decision to retire is a disappointment to us, but an opportunity as well. We are initiating a search for a leader who can take John’s successes and the college’s opportunities into the future.”
Since Mills joined Paul Smith’s in 2000, as vice president for academic affairs, he has helped usher the college through a period of rapid transformation. He helped ensure the success of Paul Smith’s transition from a two- to a four-year institution, oversaw some of the largest enrollments on campus since the early 1980s, and drove award-winning programs to strengthen academic support for students who might have dropped out of college without them. The college’s Adirondack Watershed Institute (AWI) has become a leading voice for the protection of this region’s ecological assets.
The campus itself also experienced a remarkable transformation under Mills’ leadership. The Joan Weill Student Center, which opened in 2006, has become the center of student life. Two LEED-certified buildings, the Countess Alicia Spaulding-Paolozzi Environmental Science and Education Center and the Overlook Hall residence hall, have been built. An overhaul of the Saunders Sports Complex has resulted in a marked upgrade to athletic and recreation facilities; culinary students are providing fine dining at a pair of new campus restaurants, The Palm at Paul Smith’s College and the St. Regis Café; and countless other improvements have shaped the on-campus experience.
Paul Smith’s, like many institutions, is searching for a new path forward at a time when traditional models of higher education are facing questions of sustainability and value. Online classes, industry partnerships and other efforts to attract new students – and revenue – are under development.
Mills, though, acknowledged that work is likely to take years to come to fruition.
“An entrepreneurial spirit is needed, and it needs to come from all of you,” Mills wrote the campus community in an email he sent to announce his impending retirement.
“It will be through a combined effort of all at Paul Smith’s College – trustees, administration, staff, faculty and alumni – that we successfully meet those challenges, overcome them and realize our potential. And that potential will be reached if we all work toward that goal together, and accept the fact that ‘business as usual’ will not be sufficient,” he wrote.
Saunders acknowledged that these are challenging times for most small, private colleges – and while Paul Smith’s isn’t immune to these challenges, Saunders said, he emphasized that the college’s financial future looks strong. The college’s $22 million endowment continues to perform well, he said, and Paul Smith’s is in a position to make investments that will attract new students.
The Executive Committee of the college’s board met Nov. 6 to finalize plans for conducting a search for a new president.